Remember that first day in Marketing. Re-imagine your boss warmly welcoming you on your first day. A little chit chat, a few jokes. Eventually he lets it slip that marketing spend is out of control! He says you need to cut spend by 20%. He wants you to figure which campaigns are the fat and which are the meat. He has no idea how to do it, he’s Management. He doesn’t even know how customers come to the website. You’re new and want to make a good impression.
How are you going cut marketing spend without gutting new customer revenue?
You hear a whisper in the back of your mind, “Start with Tracking the Campaigns.”
Laying the Groundwork
I. Setup the Basics.
Starting from a blank slate, your first step should be to implement Google Analytics. It’s free, you have no excuses. You will likely discover additional touch points you weren’t aware of such as any third party sites linking to your site, overall traffic levels, geography of visitors, multi-model attribution data, and much much more. If you want to keep your analytics data private and have at least $100K+ budget, use Adobe Analytics.
II. Tag Dark Traffic.
Dark traffic isn’t a convoy of truckers on the freeway at midnight. It’s a reference to a hole that analytics packages like Google Analytics have. GA(Google Analytics) tracks referrals by looking at the url you were at before arriving on the destination website. Unfortunately some referral sources like email(gmail, yahoo mail), app links, SMS messages, and even chat/message platforms(Slack and Skype) obscure referral data. GA classifies these sources as Direct, meaning someone directly typed in your website in the browser url. However that isn’t really accurate if your website visitors came from an email campaign.
The fix for this is Google URL builder.
The url builder allows you to manually create customer parameters to attach to any url. When someone clicks on that link to your website, GA collects the campaign information. GA can then identify your referral sources as something other than Direct. No more wondering whether your email campaign actually contributed to a registration.
III. Capture Your Non-Digital Efforts.
Offline campaigns are the hardest marketing campaigns to track. However, they should still play a significant role in your marketing mix. If you’re running print, TV or radio ads, a useful way to track those conversions is to offer your customers a discount if they input a certain code upon registration. The incentive will entice them to type the code in and let you know where those conversions came from.
A neat trick to make it easy for someone to remember and type in a url is to use a vanity redirect. Essentially this means buying a short attractive url and redirecting it to your designated landing page. Say for example you make software for app developers. You run a TV ad right after some Star Trek reruns. In the ad you ask people to go to www.go.android (take advantage of new top level domains). www.go.android then redirects to your main microsite or landing page, www.xyz.com. You can then get a better picture of how well your offline ads are performing. Bitly gives a great tutorial on how to track your redirects from custom vanity urls. Use that to sift out people accidentally stumbling on your landing page vs. coming from a campaign.
IV. Track Further Down the Rabbit Hole – Lead Quality
One trick to getting deeper quality tracking is to create a tracking parameters. These will require help from your IT department. You start by creating a code that appends to the end of a url pointing at your website. Our link would look something like this: www.yoursite.com/?id=567. You put that url into your online ad. Someone clicks on the ad, goes to your website, loves your message and decides to register. When the person registers, the those campaign parameter feed into your CRM(i.e. Salesforce). From there you can see what campaigns are driving registrations that convert to MQLs, SQLs, and Sales.
The downside to this is the data can be messy. Unlike Adobe or Google Analytics, your web developers have to have to pre-design your touchpoint model. Do you only want to look at last click, then a last touch parameter will do. Do you want to look at first and last touch, then you need to create an extra bucket to track first click. Want to track first, middle and last click? You’d need three defined parameters.
So a fictional customer you just closed, Enthusiastic Eric, might have an attribution that looks like this:
Status: Closed Account (Sold)
Campaigns: 1st touch id=123, 2nd touch id=987, Last touch id=354
By tracking registrations into your CRM, you get a better view of what campaigns are driving quality registrations/signups, not just any registrations/signups.
Tracking your marketing campaigns is the least sexy aspect of Marketing. It’s tedious and time consuming. But if you can’t identify where customers are coming from you’re not marketing, you’re praying. Impress your boss by clarifying all the murky data in you’re missing out on. To finish off separating the marketing fat from meat look to our next article on “attribution.”